Kentucky handily defeats Murray State without Howard, Wyatt


Kentucky junior guard Chasity Patterson holds her finish on a three pointer during the game against Texas A&M on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 76-54. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Braden Ramsey

Despite the absences of Rhyne Howard and Tatyana Wyatt, the No. 11 Cats handled business just as anticipated, beating fellow Commonwealth school Murray State 86-60.

Chasity Patterson shined, scoring 29 points while grabbing six rebounds and snatching eight steals as Howard and Wyatt sat out after head coach Kyra Elzy, who was serving in the lead role for the first time of her coaching career, handed them suspensions just an hour before game time.

“Both of these young ladies are great people. They made a bad mistake, and they are taking responsibility and holding themselves accountable,” Elzy said postgame. “There’s an expectation and standard of which we hold ourselves and when we fall short, there will be consequences… I love them enough, not to turn my head when mistakes are made.”

Patterson, who poured in the first nine points of the game for Kentucky, connected on her first five shots – including two three-pointers – to push her squad out in front early. She was the catalyst for the team’s outstanding performance, which saw eleven different Cats take the floor for more than five minutes.

“She was aggressive offensively, she took the shots when she was open, she made sure that we got into our sets and ran our plays efficiently and effectively,” Elzy said of the reigning SEC Sixth Woman of the Year. “But I am super proud of how hard she played defensively. That’s one thing we challenged her on all summer, and I thought she stepped up to the plate today.”

Kentucky forced a whopping 32 turnovers in the game, which turned into a 40-14 differential in points off turnovers.

“They get after you and stay after you. They’re relentless,” Racer coach Rechelle Turner said postgame. “I don’t know anybody else on our schedule that has the length, athleticism and speed that they have.”

That 26-point margin was effectively the difference in the game, but Elzy thinks the performance wasn’t as clean as it should have been.

“Too many straight-line dives, we didn’t get to help side, and more importantly we did not finish our defense with a box out,” she said. “Very happy for the win and what we did, but there are some things that we can fix.”

Even with those warts – and being without Howard and Wyatt – the 2020-21 debut couldn’t have gone much better.

“I know this team is great. Everybody is good,” Patterson said. “Everybody stepped up today when they needed too.”

That includes Blair Green. The Harlan County native didn’t have as big of a role during her sophomore campaign as some imagined after making the SEC coaches’ All-Freshman team in 2018-19, but after the tough year, grinded throughout the offseason to earn a starting nod.

“Blair Green has been relentless in her work ethic. Just works tirelessly,” Elzy said. “Her hard work has paid off.”

Some may have thought Green only saw the opening lineup due to Howard and Wyatt’s sabbatical, but from her postgame comments, it appears she would have cracked the first five anyway. But either way, she and her teammates were thrilled to be out on the floor in general.

“For the last two weeks… I have been on the blue team,” Green said. “I truly wasn’t that nervous; I was just excited to get back out there with my team… there was a time where I think everyone thought that we wouldn’t have a season.”

It may have come later than originally intended, but now that it has started, there’s no signs of slowing down. The Cats get back at it on Sunday afternoon, when they’ll face the Belmont Bruins in Memorial Coliseum. Tip is set for 4:00 p.m. ET on SEC Network.